Johnny Depp follows his voicing role in Academy Award-winner Rango with another Western, though this time he's in the flesh as none other than Tonto, sidekick to the indomitable Lone Ranger.
Working again with three-time Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski, Depp will again be lauded for the bravery and diversity of his roles. His turn as Tonto could be the reincarnation of his character William Blake in Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man from 1995, in which he receives an Indian hero's funeral. It's another quirky performance, anchored in humour, and the highlight of what is an energetic origin story.
In an age dominated by formulaic superhero movies, it's a welcome respite to watch an action movie that lives up to your childhood memories of the characters and situations. It's fanciful, somewhat farcical, yet as much fun as a Cadbury Crunchy Bar ad set on a train.
Verbinski and his trio of screenwriters pull out all the stops with expansive desert scenes, trains exploding, cavalry, marauding Indians, Chinese immigrants, mines, a love interest and that great piece of music.
Despite the violence and sinewy plot, the film has an innocence that characterised the early history of Westerns. Heroes and villains are clearly contrasted, though there's enough angst about the subjugation of the natives by the white man to satisfy modern palettes. The tenuous bond that develops between Tonto and the Lone Ranger, played by The Social Network twin Armie Hammer, suggests a hopeful future and the grimy outlaws clearly represent a woeful past. Better than a speeding silver bullet but not as fast (the film is very long), The Lone Ranger is the kind of reboot that reinvigorates a story and its hero without condescending to its audience. Hi-yo Silver, away!
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson Director: Gore Verbinksi
Rating: M (violence)
Running time: 149 mins